What You Need To Know About B12
You can live a healthy life on a strict plant-based diet. This is being demonstrated around the world by growing number of people choosing this way of life, whether it be for health, environmental or animal rights reasons. Yet dropping all meat and dairy and not being conscious of then replacing them with a varied diet, full of whole-foods and low in processed foods, can be detrimental to your health. And there is no point being a sick vegan - which ever reason you are choosing it for! So to be that healthy example, you must eat well AND there is also one small but very very important vitamin you need to be supplementing - B12. We are lucky that these days, when you need medicinal doses of certain vitamins, minerals or enzymes that they are easily available to us at health food store or chemists. I do not ever say we should just ignore what we eat and just pop a bunch of pills and hope for the best, because nothing replaces WHOLE foods, in their natural state, as mother earth made them. BUT there are times when supplementation can be of a great benefit, such as when we are run down, recovering from an illness, feeling stressed, if our body isn't functioning at its best state etc. AND when we are avoiding certain foods for certain reasons - such as on a strict plant-based diet.
If you are paying attention to your diet, under no stress, eating organic food with healthy soil and your body - and digestive system - is working optimally, then the only supplement you will need is B12. (As you will note, not many of us fit into that category and can benefit from some other supplementation!)
Vitamin B-12 is essential for DNA synthesis, brain and nervous system function, and red blood cell formation.
It aids in the breakdown of homocysteine, which makes it a vital nutrient for heart and artery health.
Basically if you become deficient in B12, you are going to feel it, and it is not going to be doing you any favours! Yet, you may not even notice you are deficient for a period of time, even years, since the body takes awhile for it to register the deficiency. In the time, before the symptoms are showing, already there are consequences happening in the body - firstly declining blood levels and cell stores, then increased homocysteine in the blood and then the clinical symptoms that can be;
- brain dog,
- fuzzy memory,
- sleep interference,
- Pernicious anaemia; a second type of anaemia that causes dysfunction of the bone marrow’s ability to manufacture red blood cells and leaves you fatigued,
- tingling or numbness in hands and feet,
- itchy skin.
B12, is made from a bacteria and is found in meat, cheese and eggs - and fermented foods that are fermented with lactic acid bacteria in traditional methods - which means you must supplement it if you are a vegan, but it is not only those on a plant-based diet that need B12 supplementation. Others examples of times you want to up the B12 include anyone who has had gastric banding, when you suffer from Chrons disorder, parasites, or when you drink too much.
But what type of B12? You may have noticed on the back of the bottles there are different ingredients and be wondering what one is the best for you?
The different forms of B12 in supplements are:
- Methylcobalamin. This is the most active form in the human body and most readily absorbed
- Cyanocobalamin. This synthetic version of vitamin B-12 is created in a lab, which makes it the cheapest supplement option but not the one I recommend.
- Adenosylcobalamin, also a natural form but more rarely found in supplements
Methylcobalamin contains a methyl group (carbon and hydrogen) and cyanocobalamin contains a cyanide groups - synthesised in a lab and not found in a living organism such as the bacteria that B12 comes from.
There for I always suggest going for a methylcobalamin form of B12 supplement or even a mix of the methylocobalamin with the adenosylocobalmin.